Sci & Tech

Tech Ecosystem Playing More Active Role to Combat Virus

Iranian knowledge-based companies and tech teams have successfully produced medicinal and health-protective items required to control the disease
Tech Ecosystem Playing More Active Role to Combat Virus
Tech Ecosystem Playing More Active Role to Combat Virus

As the novel coronavirus resurges in Iran, local knowledge-based firms and tech companies raised the bar in the battle against Covid-19.
Vice President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari, speaking at a meeting in West Azarbaijan Province early this week, acknowledged the latest achievements by domestic tech teams and startups, IRNA reported.
“The coronavirus outbreak in Iran has helped prepare the ground for the greater participation of tech ecosystem, especially in the medical and healthcare fields,” he said.
“Iranian knowledge-based companies and tech teams have successfully produced medicinal and heal-protective items required to control the disease.”
Sattari noted that currently, six knowledge-based companies are specifically working on Covid-19 vaccine, three of which are showing promising results. 
He added that since the virus started spreading in the country in mid-February, laboratory and clinical works for developing medicine and vaccine began. 
According to Majid Jazani, one of the pharmacists working on Covid-19 medicine, a combined drug has been developed that can reduce the respiratory impairments caused by the virus. 
“The medicine called PHR 160 cannot kill the virus, but cures its damage to lung and respiratory system and reduces the patients’ hospitalization period to utmost four days in over 40% of cases,” he said.
Jazani noted that the drug has received all the required certifications and production permits.
Hossein Vatanpour, a senior official at the Health Ministry, also announced that Iranian knowledge-based companies are becoming self-sufficient in the production of PCR test kits for Covid-19. 
“Currently, around half of the enzymes required for the production of PCR test kits are produced locally. Work is on track to localize the imported share,” he said. 
The official added that the infrastructure has been established for the activities of technology ecosystem over the past few years, which help knowledge-based units navigate through the tough situation created by the disease and provide a wide gamut of products required to combat the virus.
Vatanpour said this underlines the fact that the infrastructure should always be several steps ahead of the society’s needs. 
“The tech ecosystem’s achievements have been the results of multi-dimensional support extended by the government, the Cice Presidential Office for Science and Technology and its affiliate Iran National Innovation Fund, as well as Iran's Food and Drug Administration,” he added.



Healthcare Sector Joins Fight

Iran’s leading medical school and one of the country’s top tech universities have joined forces to combat the coronavirus disease.
To this end, an online startup event titled “Technology at the Service of Health” was jointly held in late August by Tehran University of Medical Sciences and Amir Kabir University of Technology.
The heads of several hospitals and directors of several tech teams specialized in health technology attended the gathering.
Hospitals facing a shortage of medical equipment presented a list of their requirements, asking for solutions and the help of startups.
Their list included personal protection tools like facemasks and clinical devices, including oxygen generators, Covid-19 test kits and ventilators.
Tech units also introduced their latest achievements, services and products in the sphere of medical technology.
Kayvan Fard, a member of MAPVA Industrial Group—a Tehran-based tech center—introduced a blood oxygen meter developed by the group.
The oxygen meter has a clip-like device called a probe that is placed on a body part, such as finger or earlobe. The probe uses light to measure how much oxygen is in the blood.
Fard said MAPVA has provided several hospitals in the capital with the product since the coronavirus started spreading in the country in mid-February. He added that the industrial group is ready to start the mass production of the device to alleviate the medical centers’ shortages.
Synapse, a tech firm at Samsung AUT Tech, was the other knowledge-based group present at the conference. Specialized in equipping hospitals with smart technologies, the firm converts the documented information of visiting patients and converts them into digital data.
The database is connected to Synapse’s smartphone application called “InLab” that can be used by physicians and other medical staff. The app gives the doctors full remote access and helps them review patients’ test results and write prescriptions.  
Nano Khavar Industrial Group, producer of nanotechnology respiratory masks and Parsian Mehr Group, producer of air purifying filters, also introduced their products to hospitals.
The event organizers say such events should be held more frequently in case they prove to be beneficial.



State Support

Tech firms and knowledge-based companies have been severely hit by the negative effects of the outbreak, despite their efforts to help buttress the fight against the coronavirus. 
As a result, Iranian authorities are increasing support for these entities.
In mid-March, the government-backed Iran National Innovation Fund announced that it is planning to loan 50 trillion rials ($173.9 million) to knowledge-based companies and tech firms to boost their operations.
According to INIF chief, Ali Vahdat, some 200 firms have expressed interest in receiving the fund, although only the most eligible recipient will be selected.
“The move is aimed at increasing the production of health-protective items needed during the pandemic, including facemasks, hand sanitizers, alcohol-based disinfectants and medical air disinfectant machinery, along with antibacterial fabrics and covers for hospital use,” he said.
To receive the loan and start production, the applicant knowledge-based company should be certified by all the institutions involved, including Iran’s Food and Drug Administration and Health Ministry.
Vahdat noted that the vice presidential office and Iran Nanotechnology Innovation Council have agreed to vet the credentials of applicants and introduce the final list of eligible firms.
Referring to the spread of novel coronavirus in the country, Vahdat said the pandemic cannot be controlled without utilizing the potentials of the domestic tech ecosystem.
“The country’s knowledge-based economy, which has currently grown significantly, is being helped by young entrepreneurs and tech teams to withstand the negative effects of the disease,” he added.
The coronavirus has so far infected 32,420,102 people around the world, claiming the lives of 987,813. 
Iran reported the virus outbreak in mid-February, which has so far taken the lives of 25,015 people out of a total of 436,319 infected people. 
According to Iran’s Health Ministry, 367,829 patients have so far recovered from the disease.

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